2023 Annual InfoSec Report

2023 Annual InfoSec Report​

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Fixing the broken information security industry can look like many things, but increasing education, awareness, and transparency are paramount.

We’ve compiled InfoSec report after analyzing validated risk assessments and incident response cases FRSecure engaged in in 2022. 

And we’re giving it to you as a way to understand what’s happening in the industry today, what the future of information security might look like, and what changes you can make to help level up your organization’s security game.

The Full Breakdown

Download the full, detailed 2023 Annual InfoSec Report—complete with analysis and takeaways from 500 engagements.

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TL;DR

For quick hits, key stats, and top suggestions, download the TL;DR of our 2023 Annual InfoSec Report.

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Introduction

Hello, and welcome to the first-ever FRSecure Information Security Report! As we march forward in our mission to fix a broken industry, we believe that providing the public with this data set and analysis is a critical step in increasing awareness and understanding.

About the Data

The data in this report is derived from nearly 400 validated security assessments and 55 incident response engagements that were completed in the year 2022. Within these engagements, we’ve anonymized all the information, logged data on controls, incident root causes, exploits, and more. The result is a combination of analysis, interpretation, and related suggestions.

Objective

This data should be used to understand the current ecosphere of information security. See this as a lens into the eyes of the attacker, but more importantly, let’s understand how those attacks can be prevented.

Purpose

The current state of our industry can feel overwhelming and daunting at times. I hope that this report will help provide clarity, a sense of normalcy, and a level of understanding that can be used as a powerful tool to aid in the maturation of each organization and person’s information security posture. We explore where we are winning, where we are improving, and where we are falling behind. We must also understand that our world evolves rapidly, and the data from this study will be used to improve further our assessment frameworks, understanding, guidance, and support of each other.

Sample Content and Quick Hits

Digital Forensics and Incident Response Analysis

In the following pages, we will dive into these types of engagements to understand what events led to the compromise and more importantly, what can be done to decrease your organization’s chance of being victimized.

Business Email Compromise

  • 68% of organizations have deployed proper malicious code protections for all applicable transmission methods.
  • 80% of organizations test users periodically on their susceptibility to common attack vectors like downloading dangerous files and following malicious links in emails, documents, or web pages. 
  • However, only 58% of organizations mandate security awareness training for all employees and contractors regularly.

Safeguards should be put in place wherever possible to prevent these malicious emails from reaching your user’s inbox in the first place and minimize the potential for damage if they do. Email gateway systems have come a long way in inspecting links and attachments, but as our analysis suggests, they are not infallible. Attackers continue to find ways to circumvent these controls and reach the users’ mailboxes anyway.

Training, education, and buy-in are key! I encourage you to build a security program that arms your team with the knowledge to prevent this type of attack. 

MFA should also be properly deployed to prevent the usage of credential sets harvested during a successful social engineering campaign.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

Of the fourteen business email compromise cases we worked on, only four organizations had fully implemented multi-factor authentication controls. MFA is an essential part of any defense to prevent unauthorized access to your network and email system. 

  • 70% of organizations protect administrative login pages with multi-factor authentication.
  • 60% of organizations protect general-user login pages with multi-factor authentication.

MFA Defeat

  • 50% of our BEC incidents where MFA was properly deployed were the result of MFA fatigue attacks (the user is tricked into approving the MFA notification).

Business Email Compromise Payload

  • 86% of these fraudulent ACH requests were unsuccessful, and our assessment data helps us understand why.
  • 92% of organizations require dual control for all financial transactions exceeding a designated dollar amount.
  • 68% of financial accounts are monitored and balanced daily.
  • In 43% of BEC cases, we observed continued phishing targeting internal users, external clients, and often both.
  • In all BEC cases, data ex-filtration was successful.

Logging

  • The root cause for 22% of our BEC investigations was undetermined.

In all of these examples, insufficient logging capabilities limited our investigation efforts and ultimately prevented us from determining the root cause.  A minimum of 12 months of logs should be stored for all critical systems and infrastructure if possible.

A proper SIEM implementation will also allow you to normalize your environment and develop alerts based on anomalies.

  • 90% of network time is synchronized with NTP on all devices (e.g., servers, firewalls, switches, workstations).

Our assessment data reveals that most organizations are logging security-related events on critical systems, but a significant population is still struggling with correlation, management, and review of those logs.

  • 76% of security-related events on critical systems are consistently and sufficiently logged.
  • 64% leverage group policy to enforce specific logging and auditing of important events.
  • 60% of organizations have a separate, isolated logging system that is employed to collect and protect log files.
  • 47% of logs from critical systems are aggregated and correlated to enable the identification of events that span multiple systems.
  • 38% of organizations have defined and implemented a formal standard for logging, monitoring, and alerting on events and potential incidents.

Bonus Tip

Throughout our investigations, PowerShell-based attacks are regularly observed (20% of cases in 2022). A gap we continually observe in engagements is a lack of proper PowerShell logging. We recommend you ensure PowerShell script block logging is enforced via GPO, and that those logs are retained.

The Defense: Normalize Your Environment

Regularly review all connected devices with access to your environment and investigate any unapproved devices promptly. 

  • 63% of organizations require access controls for mobile devices.
  • 69% of software applications within the organization are inventoried.

If you discover a compromised user in your environment, don’t assume they are the only victim.

Mobile Device Management

As more and more organizations adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, this risk continues to grow. FRSecure recommends that organizations lacking in this area act now.

Ensure that security policies are defined and applied to all mobile devices that can access the organization’s assets. Review current acceptable use policies.

Ransomware and Internal Compromise Engagements

Vulnerabilities

32% of all ransomware and internal compromise cases and 24% of all cases were the result of vulnerability exploits.

Another key finding: only one vulnerability exploit was the result of a vulnerability published in the last 12 months. All others had been published the previous year or before. One even dated back to 2017.

How Do We Manage These Vulnerabilities?

Asset Management

Once a comprehensive inventory approach is established, we can now be confident that we are including all assets in our vulnerability management program.

Vulnerability Management

At a minimum, organizations should be scanning quarterly. It is our stance that monthly or continual scans should be the ideal state for all organizations.

Most organizations had no critical or high-severity vulnerabilities on externally accessible systems.

  • 86% of organizations had no critical severity (CVSS 10) vulnerabilities on systems exposed to the internet.
  • 82% had no high-severity (CVSS 7-9) vulnerabilities on systems exposed to the internet.
Penetration Testing

Completing internal network, external network, and web application penetration tests identifies vulnerabilities and risks that may not be discovered through scanning alone.

Vendor Risk Management

Three engagements were the result of a compromised vendor.

Engage Your IR Provider Early

Early detection and prompt knowledgeable response are critical opportunities in our defense mechanisms.

  • 100% of the ransomware investigations confirmed the point of ingress was due to vulnerability exploitation, and dwell times ranged from 15 hours to 9 months.
  • In 80% of all ransomware cases from 2022, backups were damaged as part of the encryption process.
Backup Strategy

While we can report that most organizations have an effective backup strategy, and most have an off-site storage procedure in place, many still have network connectivity to the backup location.

  • 91% of organizations have an effective backup strategy.
  • 85% of organizations store those backups in a remote facility to avoid physical disaster.

Backups should also be tested. Today, just over half of all organizations are periodically testing and validating backup data.

  • Backups were periodically tested and validated in 59% of organizations assessed
False Positives

Reporting early is key to defending. If these had been true positives, the likelihood of significant impact would have been greatly reduced.

You can even measure some key IR-related metrics in these situations.

  • How quickly did we detect?
  • How quickly did we report?
  • What was the turn-around time of our IR partner?
  • Did everyone involved truly understand their responsibilities?
IR Preparedness

Insurance is not a plan, and you’re doing it wrong.

  • 48% of organizations assessed have defined a formal incident response plan.
  • 30% of organizations assessed are testing their incident response plan at least annually.
Cyber Insurance Policies and Providers

Only 68% of organizations have engaged their insurance provider pre-incident. A pre-engagement will allow you to select your breach counsel representative and to confirm the vendor(s) that will be used in the event of an incident.

  • 90% of organizations observed have a cyber insurance policy.
  • 68% of organizations observed have obtained cyber insurance, selected breach counsel, and vendors (forensics firm, public relations firm, crisis management firm, etc.) are included in the organization’s incident response plan.
  • 22% of organizations document how and when to notify insurers of cyber incidents.

Other Key Findings

  • 44% of organizations configure egress filtering to only permit traffic that is specifically authorized for system functionality.
  • Identify and combat OSINT and recon techniques to supplement scanning.
    • Email harvesting, leaked credential review, social media review, accidental information leakage.
    • 96% search themselves online and on file-sharing sites for leaked credential exposure.
    • Only 59% of organizations are reviewing social media sites regularly.

Top Down Approach & Security Training

Organizations should work to develop training that focuses on leadership and privileged users in the environment. Your leaders have the most influence in an organization, and this can be used to promote and grow a culture that incubates security as a life skill.

Summary and Conclusions

  1. You can’t secure what you don’t know exists (inventory management).
  2. Get a better handle on your vulnerability management programs (scan frequently)!
  3. Logs, Logs, Logs (and normalize your environment)!
  4. MFA everything… but do it the right way (revolving access tokens)!
  5. IR Preparedness. Have an IR plan, and test the plan (it’s not insurance)!
  6. Train, Train, Train – Develop a Security Focused Culture (from the top down)!
  7. Security is not easy (stop looking for easy buttons and do the work).

If there is anything at all in this report that you have questions about or need help with, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Part of FRSecure’s mission is to be a resource for everyone in the industry, so we’re always more than happy to help where we can.

Stay safe and happy hunting!

Reports

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2023 Annual InfoSec Report

For the full stats, analysis, and recommendations, download the report!